jamie goode's wine blog: Some serious Aussie wines

Monday, April 28, 2008

Some serious Aussie wines

Remarkable tasting today, titled 'Landmark Australia', held by Wine Australia at Australia House in the Strand. Despite an encounter with a doorman who lacked any people skills whatsoever (I was strongly ticked off for being early), it was a fantastic event. The idea was to showcase Australia's 'proud and exceptional history of fine wine'. There's one thing you have to admire the Aussies for, and that's their self-belief. When this comes to wine this is exemplified by their show system, where judgements are made with a degree of certainty and confidence that worries me slightly. Still, the show system has undoubtedly helped in the pursuit of quality (or, at least, a self-sustaining Aussie-centric perception of quality), even though it may have stifled innovation to a degree in the past.

Michael Hill-Smith led the tasting, in conjunction with Paul Henry of Wine Australia. [Hill-Smith comes across as a smart but rather bullish Aussie; I suspect you wouldn't want to disagree with him.] The first part was a sit-down tasting with 17 specially chosen wines, showcasing the best of Australia's fine wine offering. Afterwards, we were treated to a further 26 wines on self-pour, with a long lunch where we got a chance to drink any of these 43 wines that took our fancy.

I came away really enthused by many of the wines. There were lots of really stunning bottles, one after the other. In fact, I was taken by surprise: I follow Aussie wine quite closely, and I guess this familiarity had made me forget just how good the best wines are. It was also great to be able to drink as well as taste - it gives you a bit more of a chance to get to know the wines.

Some highlights:

Tyrell's Vat 47 Chardonnay 1998 Hunter - a big, massive Chardonnay that's unashamedly Australian, but which at 10 years old is ageing beautifully. 94/100

Jim Barry The Florita Riesling 2007 Clare - wow, this is good: pure, rich, focused limey fruit with great balance. 94/100

Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 Coonawarra - it was hard to believe this wine is already 12 years old. Fantastically concentrated, complex and fresh with lovely purity of fruit. A real classic. 96/100

Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot 2005 Margaret River - a thrilling wine that's still tight and youthful. Concentrated ripe, dense fruit with great precision and real potential for further development. 94/100

Hardys Eileen Hardy Shiraz 1999 - Distinctive, classically styled Aussie Shiraz that's ageing beautifully - sweet fruit and nice spiciness, with great integration of ripe, sweet fruit and oak. 94/100

Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2004 Barossa - much better than I was anticipating with beautifully dense, pure dark fruits. Fruit is the dominant feature here. 94/100

Mount Langi Ghiran Langi Shiraz 2004 Grampians - utterly brilliant cool-climate Shiraz with a fresh white pepper nose and lovely purity and lushness to the well defined, precise fruit. Thrilling. 96/100

Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz 2005 Hunter - stunningly good: fresh, focused and well defined, with massive potential for future development. 95/100

Wild Duck Creek Estate Duck Muck 2004 Heathcote - crazy stuff, with 16.5% alcohol and incredibly rich, porty fruit. But it's actually in balance and is thoroughly delicious. A guilty pleasure. 94/100

Mitolo Serpico Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 McLaren Vale - incredible stuff, with a lovely rich, spicy mid palate and fresh, sweet, slightly leafy blackcurrant fruit. 94/100

Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Margaret River - thrillingly intense Cabernet that's taut and brooding at the moment, but it's a serious wine with a long life ahead of it. 95/100

Shaw & Smith Shiraz 2006 Adelaide Hills - cool climate Syrah with a peppery edge to the beautifully fresh, well defined red fruits. Fantastic stuff. 94/100

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At 6:54 PM, Blogger Douglas Blyde said...

Fantastic tasting, Jamie. I really enjoyed it. And what a venue! The Duck was badly packaged. Robert Joseph hated it! I'm not sure what to think about it. By the way, the chap who mentioned your blog in California was Mike Sinor of Sinor La Vallee.
Take care,

At 10:20 PM, Anonymous Jay Jewell said...

Nice tasting. That JR is a monster wine up to 1999. The 1996 model is the biggest and may take another 15 years to mature. Must track down some Mt. Langi.

At 10:52 PM, Blogger Paul Tudor said...

This is a really interesting post, Jamie.

I do not deny that they are some truly subtle and characterful Australian wines, but that is not the view that is generally presented. You have to hunt down producers like Mount Langi - and regions like The Grampians.

One wonders where their industry went wrong.

You have previously blogged about Wendouree - now that is a producer that is not largely overlooked, yet which produces "real wine" with defined origins and which has retained its integrity. The fact that there is so little of it (and you can not get it here in Aotearoa) makes this all the more painful...

Best wishes

At 10:53 PM, Blogger Paul Tudor said...

oops typo there - should say "that is largely overlooked"

At 11:38 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

I tried the 03 Langi Shiraz - 15.5% from memory - not my idea of cool climate, yet I recall older vintages at a more reasonable 13%. Where is the 04 in relation; I was beginning to suspect this estate was going down the big extraction route.

At 11:51 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Douglas - agree that the duck muck was badly packaged, though much as my instincts told me to slam this wine, I had to admit that they'd done a good job.

Jay, it's a monster alright.

Paul, I wish, wish, wish that there were more producers like wendouree

Doug, alas the langi is 15% alcohol, which is not cool climate - but what is 'cool climate' about this wine is the definition of fruit and the bright peppery syrah character - and it's balanced. I was impressed.


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